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Over the past couple of years, Sony Online Entertainment has transitioned all of their MMORPGs into free-to-play games, relying on microtransactions and a cash shop to make their money. Now, they've announced a plan that would let players make real-world money from SOE's cash stores, too.
The Player Studio will allow players—for now, of EverQuest and EverQuest II, with other games to be added—to create and upload their own in-game items, after which SOE will consider adding them to the shop:
Once complete, players are encouraged to name and create a description for their item, describe how the item will fit into the prospective game's ongoing narrative storyline, and submit it to SOE for review and possible inclusion in the SOE Marketplace. If a player-created item is selected for inclusion in the SOE Marketplace, SOE will share 40% of the net amount it receives from the sale of the item with the player that created the item.
Not every novice will be able to participate; creating the items and working with the geometry requires a certain amount of proficiency with modeling programs like Maya or 3DS Max. SOE president John Smedley clarified in a tweet that users will not be adding stats to items themselves; while players can submit suggestions with their designs, items selected for the shop will be balanced for in-game use by the SOE team before going live.
Back in my EverQuest II days, creative home decorators were making palaces out of crates and rugs. I can only imagine what they'll get up to with the actual item geometry files in their hands...
SOE Player Studio [Sony Online Entertainment]
Publishers are rolling out their E3 line-ups just as the big convention rears its massive head. We've even had some somewhat-surprising, but really-not-that-surprising reveals come of these announcements, too.
Today SOE announced their stock of games to be shown on the showfloor, including the expected suspects like PlanetSide 2, updates to released titles, and several new MMOs. But what's most enticing, to me at least, is the new EverQuest II tech—SOEmote—that has facial and voice recognition built in.
See below for the full line-up.
First hands-on play with PlanetSide 2, the highly-anticipated MMOFPS. PlanetSide 2 takes all the groundbreaking features from the original game — massive multiplayer battles, distinct empires to rally around, and enormous continents where intense ground and air combat unfolds — and adds features that modern gamers have come to expect of the FPS and MMO genres. To dial up the E3 experience to epic levels, PlanetSide 2 has enlisted video game personality TotalBiscuit to live cast directly from the SOE booth at 3 p.m. PT on Tuesday, June 5, and Wednesday, June 6, as well as at 11 a.m. PT on Thursday, June 7. Featured live on TwitchTV — http://www.twitch.tv/totalbiscuit — TotalBiscuit will take PlanetSide 2's massive combat beyond the E3 show floor. To stay up to date with PlanetSide 2 news at E3 and for the chance to win SOE products, tune in to PlanetSide 2 news on Twitter at @PlanetSide2 and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PlanetSide2. Those attending can also drop by the booth to receive a special PlanetSide 2 item and beta key. To sign up for beta, players can visit http://bit.ly/L6RpWO.
DC Universe Online
Hands-on demo with The Last Laugh (DLC 4), featuring an all-new weapon, hours of multiplayer gameplay in the Safe Houses and Headquarters, and new Legends PvP characters. For real-time updates from E3, follow DCUO on Twitter at @DCUO and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DCUniverseOnline.
Hands-on demo of the game and an introduction to SOEmote, a new innovative facial recognition and voice technology feature that allows players unprecedented ability for personal expression and role playing in EverQuest II. Featuring revolutionary facial recognition software created by Image Metrics, and integrating Vivox's voice font technology, SOEmote was designed to truly bring the roleplay back to roleplaying games. For real-time updates from E3, follow EverQuest II on Twitter at @EverQuestII and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EverQuest2.
Hands-on demo with the killer new free-to-play first-person shooter (FPS). Developed by ACONY Games and available later this summer for the PC, Bullet Run is a team-based multiplayer game that puts players in the ultimate reality TV game show, where contestants showcase their deadly talents in the name of fame. For real-time updates from E3, follow Bullet Run on Twitter at @BulletRunGame and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BulletRunTheGame. To sign up for beta, players can visit http://bit.ly/L1auE9.
Gameplay demo of the all-new Sunstone Valley, the long awaited regional content expansion for Free Realms. Opening later this summer, players will have an entirely new desert landscape to explore, desert monsters to battle and a whole slew of exciting new quests and rewards. For real-time updates from E3, follow Free Realms on Twitter at @FreeRealms and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FreeRealms.
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures
Gameplay demo of the new Clone Wars Adventures Card Assault Trading Card Game. Clone Wars Adventures is a free-to-play, action-packed, direct to content online world where you can live out the thrills and excitement of the "Star Wars®: The Clone Wars™" animated TV series. For real-time updates from E3, follow Clone Wars Adventures on Facebook at www.facebook.com/clonewarsadventures.
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
Hands-on demo with Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which is the final SOE title to transition to free-to-play. Vanguard is a fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) set in the vast world of Telon, an ancient world of magic, intrigue and adventure.
Hands-on demo with the new free-to-play MMO based on the classic Wizardry computer games. Produced by Gamepot, this latest game features countless traps and fiendish monsters that will hinder players' adventures as they cross the most difficult dungeons ever seen. Wizardry Online retains the characteristic elements of the original Wizardry and merges them with modern MMORPG functions.
Emotes in MMOs are no new thing. Interacting with players online just isn't the same if you can't dance with them every once in awhile.
But EverQuest II, an eight-year-old MMORPG, is getting an even more impressive facelift for even more expressive emotes. Namely, your emotes. No typing, only a webcam that will watch your facial expressions to instruct your avatar to match it. Smile and your avatar smiles with you. Talk, and the SOEmote technology will translate your mumblings into creature-fied versions of itself.
The voice part is a little creepy, as you can see in the video above. I might have nightmares of an ogre version of my voice whispering ominous things to me.
SOE will be unveiling this new tech at E3 this year, so hang tight for our impressions. Or more accurately, Fahey's impressions.
While he ran around the room getting dressed, he swooped by his PC and turned it on. "I just got this game," he said. "I'm pretty sure you'll like it."
Dubiously, I peered over his shoulder. "EverQuest?" I said. "I mean, seriously? You know I don't do the whole online gaming thing. Never have."
"EverQuest II," he said, "not the first one. It's new. And you should seriously try it," he replied. "I think it's right up your alley. Give it a chance, at least?" And with that he dashed off to the subway, running late.
Still in the t-shirt I'd slept in, with my hair a mess and blinking sleepily through my glasses, I plopped myself into his desk chair and launched the game. He'd left his username and password scribbled for me on the back of something he probably should have taken with him. I rolled my eyes and logged in.
And then that theme played. That clear French horn, ringing as only brass can. He'd known, I realized, that the music alone would carry me as far as character creation. I was a horn player, and had been for 15 years. I figured: anything that opened so pleasantly, with a theme I approved that much of, couldn't be all bad. So I created a character... and didn't get up from that chair until he came back that evening.
By fall 2006, the boyfriend and I had broken up. But I kept the city — New York was my home, for a few years — and I kept the game, playing regularly until 2009 and intermittently through 2010.
EverQuest II isn't my favorite game of all time, nor does it have my favorite score of all time. But every time I hear that theme, every time that soaring horn opens up into those brass chords fifteen seconds in, part of me feels like I'm coming home. An MMO changes all the time, but through all the years, all the patches, and all the thematic upheaval that the digital world went through, every time I'd hear the theme start up I'd settle back and relax.
If my life had a soundtrack, this would represent three years' worth in my 20s. EQ2 had its problems, but music was never among them.
Long-time Everquest II player Carri Hoover has a son not quite as old as the game is. Sadly, however, six-year-old John Hoover is terminally ill, with doctors estimating he has only weeks left to live.
Last Tuesday, March 6, she posted a request to the "Norrathian Homeshow" board on the official forums, a place where players who enjoy decorating their in-game houses and guild halls compare notes. She wrote:
This is a depressing post but I need some help. My 6 yr old son has cancer and was recently given 6 - 12 weeks to live.
He has a frog that he likes to run around Tenebrous Tangle Island on; however, it is sparse and he has requested to add trees, fences, stairs, animals and all kinds of other items to make his island fun and exciting.
Are there any decorators out there that would be willing to assist in adding these items (and any others their imagination poses) to help me make the island even more fun for him. I don't know how much I'll be able to accomplish on my own while still providing him quality time to enjoy it.
Fewer than 12 hours later, a team of players had already begun to get materials and systems in place so that players who wished to contribute their real time or virtual money and goods could do so easily. And by the end of the day, Hoover's request had become a rallying point, with players taking it upon themselves to schedule and advertise a server event for Saturday, March 10.
And with that, the plans were underway. Community representatives and SOE staff became aware of the plans and highlighted the upcoming event in their community news, as well as on the EverQuest II Facebook page.
Players working around the clock joined and power-leveled a new guild (reaching guild level 70 in, reportedly, approximately 65 hours) in order to have access to goods, housing, and amenities ready for the big day. And when it came, they turned out in force. When they were done, young John had a virtual wonderland to call his own, complete with carousel, playground, treehouse, hopscotch field, giant aquarium, menageries, gardens, pirate bed, winter wonderland, and even a rollercoaster — all donated and built, painstakingly, by a small army of decorators. The screenshots posted above are just a small selection of what can be seen in the gallery EQ2 Zam put together to showcase the event.
Eric Cleaver, Community Manager for EverQuest II, said in a phone call that it was very safe to say that over 100 players participated, and that "literally thousands of man-hours were put into the event over the course of a few days." He added:
Obviously this was a very moving event, a horrible tragedy for the family, and it's very inspiring that the community came together in such a way to do what they could to give the child a very bright day. And that is one of the truly amazing things about these sorts of online communities, that there is such a feeling of love and connection between them.
After the event had concluded, Hoover returned to the thread where it all began to offer her thanks, beginning, "I have probably deleted thousand of insignificant words while tyring to find a way to thank everyone." She continued, "The response from the community was so magnificently overwhelming and uplifting that any sadness that triggered our request was completely overshadowed with the amazement of the generosity of everyone who contributed."
And then she told more of the story of how big a role the EverQuest II community had played in her family's lives since the game first launched in late 2004, writing:
What many of you don't realize is just how long some of you have actually been on this journey with us starting with my son's premature birth. He was born at 24.5 weeks gestation and weighed only 1 lb 5 oz. He stayed 5 months in the NICU but the friends I made in the community were always willing to lend an ear and a virtual shoulder. Some came to visit once we were able to bring him home. During a semi-calm "normal" period, many of the friends I made here helped me with basic parenting tips to get me through teething and burping and then, when he got diagnosed with cancer at the age of three, again, the friends made here would listen, cry with me and sent him books and toys to help get through the many hospital stays that would follow.
For a brief period, when he seemed to be "cured", our friends here organized a Vegas trip for us knowing that we hadn't taken any vacations since he was born. When the cancer came back, our friends here, continued to help organize trips to Fan Faire so that at least once a year we could have some time to recharge and help rejuvenate us for the ongoing fight with cancer. All of these things played a large part in keeping us strong and therefore better able for us to be there mentally and emotionally for him.
And now, with all the love given this weekend, you have all shined such a beautiful light on our family that we are able to carry it with us during the darkness and I can assure you, it will not be forgotten even when we aren't running around Norrath. This is an event that will provide smiles that last a lifetime for Ribbitribbitt and Mom and Dad.
Thank you everyone. Players, guides, devs.... literally everyone!!!
Hoover and her husband shared videos on YouTube chronicling their son's reactions to his new island paradise and the massive community effort that got it made. Don't watch them anywhere you can't sniffle at least a little. When gamers give back, they go big.
EverQuest II ushers in a new age of player-created content with its new Dungeon Maker system, a ridiculously easy and entertaining way to amaze and kill your friends.
Released earlier this month as part of the Age of Discovery expansion, EverQuest II's Dungeon Maker is a tool that allows a player or (groups of players) to design, publish, and share their own dungeon designs. While it sounds a great deal like City of Heroes' mission architect or Star Trek Online's foundry, building a dungeon with Dungeon Maker actually feels more like getting together with a friend in Halo's Forge mode.
I got a chance to poke around a bit with Dungeon Maker before the expansion was released, and I really liked what I saw. The builder picks a floor plan and then wanders about placing items, decorations, and creatures via a simple point and click interface. Monster behaviors can be programmed with a few mouse clicks, making it easy to set a patrol path or plan an ambush on unsuspecting players.
Once the dungeon is finished the creator can publish it so others can give it a go. Character levels don't matter here: When you play a dungeon maker game you are given a choice of premade characters to play. Just hop in, play a round, and vote up the dungeons you like the best. Players win tokens good for equipment for playing dungeons, while creators earn rewards for hitting the top of the leaderboards.
What makes the feature even more interesting is that certain dungeon layouts and monster spawners can only be found by going out into the world and adventuring, so there's a nifty element of collection on top of all that creativity.
The Dungeon Maker is available right now as part of the EverQuest II Age of Discovery expansion.